What they are
Both the TOEFL and IELTS aim to test English proficiency, and are often required of students who have spent less than four years in an English learning environment. These scores add nothing to an application beyond showing that a student can read, write and speak English.
TOEFL vs IELTS
Are they necessary?
Considering the high cost of these tests, I recommend trying to convince your students to study well for the SAT/ACT rather than spend time on either of these tests: a high Reading and Language score in the SAT or ACT will often waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement. Furthermore, counselors could reduce the need for one of these tests by stressing the English proficiency of their students in a recommendation letter.
Personally, I only spent just two years in a learning environment taught in English, but thanks to a fairly high SAT score all my universities waived their TOEFL requirements.
However, if a student takes English as a secondary language, has spent less than 4 years in an English learning environment, or has sub-600 scores on the English section on the SAT (or sub-26 on the ACT), a TOEFL or IELTS should be taken to avoid any concerns the admissions officers might have.
Students should try to figure out whether or not they want to take one of these tests during the summer before their senior year, as it can take a while before a TOEFL test is administered, and otherwise they might not receive their scores before their ED/EA applications.
Advice from an experienced counsellor
Ms Jackson, the high school counsellor at the Antwerp International School, thinks that if there are any concerns about the student’s english proficiency, taking TOEFL or IELTS is a good idea.
For proficient English speakers the tests are fairly easy, and students should do well even with little preparation.
Two notable universities, UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago, are fairly strict about their TOEFL and IELTS requirements. They will only let students replace the TOEFL or IELTS with other scores on a case-by-case basis. When applying to these schools, always contact your regional admissions officer to make sure you have completed all the required testing.